For two weeks this spring, Merriam Park artist Hend Al-Mansour could be found at the Target store at 2500 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis. She was there every day, 10 to 12 hours at a time, creating a 52-foot-long mural titled “Faces of Minneapolis.” The monumental work means a great deal to Al-Mansour and, she hopes, to others as well.
“Faces” is one of seven new murals on the exterior wall of the Lake Street store, each by a local artist whom Target selected as part of its rebuilding effort. The store at Lake and Hiawatha Avenue was heavily damaged in May 2020 in the rioting that followed the murder of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
“As we rebuilt the store, we asked local guests what they would want the art on the store to represent,” said Target spokesperson Shane Kitzman. “They wanted art that honors the cultural richness of the Lake Street community and conveys a sense of unity and positive change. We commissioned seven diverse artists with ties to the Lake Street community to share their artistic interpretations.”
The seven murals are all based on themes of a poem written by a Target employee, according to Al-Mansour. The themes include resilience, healing, growth, renewal and togetherness. “I was given healing,” she said. “(To illustrate that) I thought of having five portraits, each of a woman and each representing an ethnicity and a career or passion that helps in healing.”
‘Faces of Minneapolis’
At the center of her mural is a young African American woman carrying a smartphone, an image inspired by the teenager who took the video of Floyd and the police on that fateful day. “The woman represents the awareness of an educated citizen who is watching, documenting everything,” Al-Mansour said. “Healing begins from that and acknowledging the injustice.”
At the far left of the mural is a Native American cyclist and environmentalist who uses the environment for healing. Next to her is a Hmong teacher who is writing words in chalk that represent justice and equity. The mural also depicts a Somali American nurse clad in green scrubs and a hijab with a stethoscope around her neck as well as an Arab American artist. “Artists heal us with their art, and she is holding paint brushes,” Al-Mansour said.
All five women are situated under arches of Islamic design. Within the arches are wildflowers native to Minnesota, including forget-me-nots, milkweed and a pink ladyslipper, the state flower. “They too represent the faces of Minnesota,” Al-Mansour said.
Colors of cooperation
The design of Al-Mansour’s mural took several months to create. She scanned her initial sketches into a computer, and then refined them digitally. Once printed, the images were projected onto the wall at Target and then painted.
All of the artists were provided exterior house paint for their murals. “I had to decide on colors months before the painting began,” Al-Mansour said. “That was hard because I never decide on colors before I begin painting. I try colors to see how they look and then decide if I like them. Most of (the seven muralists) ended up borrowing colors from each other. And we ended up mixing colors for skin tones.”
Valuing strong women
Al-Mansour’s portraits and her geometric designs reflect her Saudi Arabian background. While growing up in that Middle Eastern country, she learned to value strong women. She attended medical school and went to work as a cardiologist. Granted a fellowship in 1997 at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, she came to Minnesota and while here eventually decided to leave the medical field and pursue the art career she had contemplated growing up.
“I quit medicine, took (art) classes, put together a portfolio and applied to the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Minnesota,” she said. “Two years later, I had my MFA and was practicing art full time. I also met the love of my life, and we were married that same year.”
Al-Mansour’s husband is University of Saint Thomas theology professor emeritus Dr. David Penchansky.
In 2013 she earned a master’s degree in art history at Saint Thomas and has since exhibited her screen prints throughout the world.
“I can’t tell you how many people stopped while I was painting (my Target store mural) to say, ‘Thank you’ or ‘That’s me there,’” Al-Mansour said. “It’s such a good neighborhood. I think the murals are meaningful to the people there.
“The doing of this mural is about justice,” she said. “My work is always about justice and women’s rights and celebrating powerful women.”
— Anne Murphy
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